Abolish death sentence! It is a barbaric act and not in sync with civilised society

By Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*
So Yakub Memon was finally hanged to death early this morning (July 30th) in the Nagpur Central Jail! The 54-year old Chartered Accountant was convicted for the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts which took the lives of 267 people and injured many more. The team of lawyers defending him tried every possible option to stay the death penalty but to no avail.
President Pranab Mukherjee rejected Memon’s final plea for clemency despite a petition from several eminent citizens. 
The petition which was signed by over 300 persons (former Supreme Court judges, academia, human rights activists, film makers, politicians and others from civil society) requested the President to stay Memon’s execution citing procedural lapses and “disturbing aspects of this case which make the award of death sentence of Yakub Memon as grossly unfair, arbitrary and excessive”.
Apart from the fact that Yakub Memon had already served more than the stipulated time for life imprisonment and that there was little evidence of his direct involvement in the blasts, he was still hanged. Several citizens have termed it as ‘legal murder’.
A sense of permissiveness seems to have permeated several sections of Indian society. From last evening, one could see a sense of gloating of ‘fait accompli’ - as people thronged the gates of Nagpur Central Jail for ‘selfies’; media anchors and reporters felt that it is their divine responsibility to scream and yell for a man’s blood! The three members of the Apex Court wouldn’t even consider a further fourteen days reprieve.
On the other hand, Maya Kodnani the linchpin of the Naroda Patiya massacres (and already convicted to more than a life term) gets bail today from the Gujarat High Court; the master-minds of the Gujarat Genocide and the encounter killings of innocent youth, roam freely with immunity and impunity and also hold some of the highest offices of the land; Jayalalitha has been acquitted due to ‘miscalculations’ of her scandalous assets; the Vyapam scam has already taken the toll of more than forty lives; the ‘Lalit-gate’ corruption issue; the killings of dalits, tribals and minorities; the hate-speeches of law makers – for all this and more, many conveniently turn a blind eye.
“There is indeed something rotten in the State of Denmark!”
No, we are not advocating the death penalty for anyone! The death penalty must be abolished! It is a barbaric act and not in sync with civilised society. No violence can be justified; no murder can be rectified; death penalty however is not the answer! Objective studies clearly demonstrate that in nations and societies where the death penalty has been abolished, the crime rate has decreased dramatically.
On March 20, Pope Francis writing to the International Commission Against Death Penalty says, “today the death penalty is inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed; capital punishment contradicts God’s plan for man and society and does not render justice to the victims but rather fosters vengeance.”
Two wrongs have never made a right. Let us hope that at least in this ‘legal murder’ of Yakub Memon that we all awake and work towards the abolition of the death penalty in India!
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*Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)

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